React state management is one of the biggest challenges with the React framework. And it isn’t just the users who’re affected by it. React developers need a simple and scalable state management process for designing efficient and complex user experiences.
Developers use React hooks to access and share component states across different components. But when dealing with a large number of components, the complexity becomes too much for React hooks to handle. Developers need to leverage React state management libraries in such cases.
But how do you choose the state management library that’s best for you? It depends. Let’s learn more about the most important libraries available and how you should approach your decision.
What Is React State Management?
When a user interacts with your React app, changes can occur in the state of one or more components. These changes can affect the user interface (UI) presented to the user and hence, you need to manage them effectively.
Why Is React State Management Important?
State management in React is extremely important to preserve the integrity of a React app by ensuring ease of user experience.
When users are interacting with your React application, their every action can change the state of multiple components on the app. Take, for instance, an e-commerce application where purchasing a product can affect multiple components via the following:
Adding products to the cart
Adding products to the customer’s cart history
Modifying the count of purchased products
In such a scenario with complex elements interacting with each other and requiring sharing of states among each other, scalability is easily affected. If robust state management libraries aren’t implemented, the task of frequently debugging and fixing the app can quickly become unsustainable.
React state management is crucial to help communicate states between multiple components in a way that’s easy, coherent, and scalable.
What Are React State Management Libraries?
React state management libraries offer novel approaches to tackle state management effectively, helping developers build scalable and highly interactive React applications.
These libraries are modular pieces of code that take care of a lot of the state management best practices for developers. Picking up and perfecting these libraries is fast and easy. And developers have a wide variety of seasoned and new libraries to choose from.
Different state management libraries in React use different approaches to achieve the same solution. They also differ from each other in terms of library size, support for languages, documentation, API support, and more.
The choice of the library will also depend on your specific needs, the size of your development project, and the expertise of your developer team.
7 Top React State Management Libraries
There are more than 90 React state management libraries on GitHub. But based on a number of key characteristics, some stand out amongst the rest.
The following factors should go into your decision when choosing the right state management library for your next React app:
We’ve researched almost all the available React state management libraries so you don’t need to and narrowed it down to just seven.
Redux has been around since 2015. The very first React state management library, React was created to simplify state management by centralizing the state repository. It does this by using a ‘Store’ to hold all the states of your application.
Redux still maintains a comfortable lead over all other state management libraries, according to the Jan 2022 npmtrends results. Redux works using actions and reducers. Actions are objects instructing the store on what events should take place. And reducers are functions that are executed based on the action’s input and an object’s initial state.
Whenever you need to modify the state of a component based on user behavior, you can dispatch an action to the reducer which changes the state and saves it in the store.
Though Redux is widely popular, developers aren’t too keen on the related boilerplate they need to work with. Multiple actions and reducers lead to a lot of code that gets hard to maintain when apps become complex. But the Redux Toolkit can be used to reduce the boilerplate and simplify the overall issue.
With the Redux Toolkit taking care of the usability of Redux, its simple logic and pure functions make it quite maintainable, performant, and testable. You can also modify and reuse Redux code as it is framework-agnostic and supports middleware.
And due to its maturity, it enjoys a large community of developer support and a rich ecosystem of add-ons and tools.
Hookstate is a modern alternative to React hooks and libraries like Redux. Hookstate has quickly earned a reputation for being a minimal, performant, and scalable state management library.
The library is based on native React hooks and has virtually no boilerplate or actions or reducers. It is a TypeScript-first library and is scalable for all kinds of complex React applications. It also supports plugins that can be used to enhance functionality and developer experience.
Hookstate is unique in the way that it tracks rendered and updated states. It uses concepts like local state and global state that are very similar to native React state management. But it also introduces other concepts like nested state, scoped state, and asynchronous state. These features allow developers to access complex states, render large states, and use ‘promises’ to delay certain actions.
It passes with flying colors on parameters like usability, scalability, and performance. But being a new library, it still has a long way to go in terms of its ecosystem and community.
Another new entrant to the scene is Recoil, released in early 2020. Recoil is known for being developed by Facebook and its React-like approach to state management.
Currently an experimental library, it’s relatively stable and packed with powerful features.
The main concepts used in Recoil are atoms and selectors. An atom is a shared-state unit that represents a single state property. A component can subscribe to an atom to get its value. Atoms are similar to React’s local state but with the added benefit of being shared among different components.
Selectors are pure functions that get their value from atoms or other selectors. Their value is recomputed whenever the atoms or selectors they’re subscribed to, change their own values. This way, Recoil tracks which components use which atoms/selectors so it can re-render a component only if its connected atom/selector changes its value. This technique makes Recoil incredibly performant and scalable.
With all its benefits, Recoil is very new and doesn’t have a sizeable community and ecosystem. It’s also React-dependent and can’t be reused elsewhere. But it’s integrated with React Suspense and scores exceptionally well on modifiability and maintainability.
Jotai was announced in 2021 and implements atomic state management. It has many of the benefits of other similar libraries like performance, simplicity, as well as integration with React Suspense and other libraries on this list.
But where its standout features include in its smaller size, cleaner API, greater TypeScript support, and deeper maturity.
Jotai goes one step further in atomic state management by handling pretty much everything like an atom.
If you aren’t satisfied yet, Rematch might win you over with its lighter, faster, and easier-to-use features. It simplifies the setup, reduces boilerplate, and handles side effects better.
It manages to squeeze all that into a 1.7KB bundle size. Rematch, at its core, works with models. Models bring state, reducers, and effects inside a single entity, utilizing Redux’s best practices and making state management simpler.
And that’s not all. Rematch is written in TypeScript, supports a wide range of plugins, and is framework-independent. You can make it work with Vue, Angular, and others if you wish to do so. All of these features make Rematch highly usable, performant, and scalable.
Rematch is much easier to learn than many other libraries,, provides a much more enjoyable interface, and is far lighter as well. For most React projects, developers should check out Rematch, especially those starting a project from scratch.
Built by the people behind Jotai and weighing in at under 1KB, Zustand might be the smallest library on this list. But it’s certainly nothing to be scoffed at. Zustand brings a simple and minimalistic API that makes it fast and scalable.
Zustand’s API is based on hooks and React components can then use to retrieve and share state. It easily overcomes common issues in React like the zombie child problem, React concurrency, and context loss between mixed renderers. It claims to be the only state manager that has managed to do so.
Also, it renders components only if their state changes. It provides clean and easily maintainable code that’s much shorter and more readable than many other libraries on this list.
Zustand can also manage transient state updates without re-rendering the components. It has managed to gain more than 23k stars on Github, which is more than Rematch, Jotai, and MobX.
Outside Redux and React’s built-in Context API, MobX is probably the most popular state manager out there. MobX takes a markedly different approach to state management than Redux.
It follows the OOP paradigm and uses the observer/observables pattern to manage state. MobX creates an observable data model that your observers or components can refer to. It then tracks the data accessed by each component and renders it whenever the data changes.
Another feature of MobX is immutability. It allows you to update the state silently to avoid side effects.
As it doesn't require actions or reducers, any modifications in state are instantly reflected in components. This makes MobX truly reactive. But this also means shorter and less explicit code. This might be a con for some developers as it takes away some visibility and control from them.
Usability, performance, and scalability are no problems for MobX. But it also excels in modifiability and reusability. And being a mature library (almost 26k stars on GitHub), MobX has no lack of community support or a fledgling ecosystem.
How To Choose the Right React State Management Tool
Every project is different and has its own unique dependencies, business use case, and fit with one solution over the other. All the alternatives discussed above attempt to solve the same problem with different approaches.
Redux and MobX are old favorites in the community and are natural choices for the majority of projects. Knowing Redux, in general, gives you added benefits during state management in your projects.
But in some cases, other options might be better suited. For instance, Jotai and Hookstate offer innovative approaches to state management and have managed to capture the attention of the community in a short amount of time.
Irrespective of the state management library you choose, you’ll also need to assess the expertise of your development team and their comfort with React in general. And if you’re in the market for React developers, Trio can help you connect with world-class talent in a seamless and highly economical process.
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React state management is an ongoing challenge for any React project. Tackling it effectively depends not only on choosing the right state management tool but also on having the right people on your team.
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